Review: Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Tess of the Road #1)

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There are many, many stories about roads and journeys in fantasy, and just as many sayings. Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker? Journey before destination. The Road goes ever on and on. So in a way, Tess of the Road is a story in the oldest of fantasy traditions.

The road was possibility, the kind she’d thought her life would never hold again, and Tess herself was motion. Motion had no past, only future. Any direction you walked was forward, and that was as must be.

Walk on became her credo; she repeated it to herself every morning upon deciding to get up and exist for one more day.

At the same time, it’s also a fresh take. There’s no grand objective to work towards. And instead of the world, Tess saves herself.

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Review: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James (The Dark Star Trilogy #1)

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ARC received from the publisher on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

This has been one of the most hyped and anticipated fantasy releases of 2019. Literary fantasy set in Africa? Yes please. I wanted it so much and couldn’t believe my luck getting an early copy. The first few pages were wonderful. But, ultimately, as a long-time fantasy reader, I was left underwhelmed and disappointed.

I saw that I was still a boy. There were men stronger, and women too. There were men wiser, and women too. There were men quicker, and women too. There was always someone or some two or some three who will grab me like a stick and break me, grab me like wet cloth, and wring everything out of me. And that was just the way of the world. That was the way of everybody’s world. I who thought he had his hatchets and his cunning, will one day be grabbed and tossed and thrown in with garbage, and beaten and destroyed. I am the one who will need saving, and it’s not that someone will come and save me, or that nobody will, but that I will need saving, and walking forth in the world in the shape and step of a man meant nothing.

(quote taken from the ARC, subject to change upon publication)

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Reread: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (World of the Five Gods #1)

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This is not the first time I have read this book. Not even the second. My best estimate would be about fourth or fifth – it’s simply one of those comfort reads I keep returning to again and again when I need a pick-me-up. The familiarity, the characters…it’s one of those books that never grow old and I feel I owe it at least a short review.

Any man can be kind when he is comfortable. I’d always thought kindness a trivial virtue, therefore. But when we were hungry, thirsty, sick, frightened, with our deaths shouting at us, in the heart of horror, you were still as unfailingly courteous as a gentleman at ease before his own hearth.

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Review: One of Us by Craig DiLouie

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Wow. I don’t even know how to approach reviewing this. It’s an exploration of “us vs. them” mentality through a SFF lens and, while well-written, in no way a pleasant read. I could only read it a few pages at a time before I had to put it down again. The petty, everyday evil, the worst aspects of humanity laid bare. It was almost too much. But. It felt powerful and important and viscerally realistic in its own brutally unflinching way. Necessary.

He learned what he was, what they were, and that monsters and men were not meant to exist in the same world. If your own mother hates you and drives you away, why should total strangers love you? From the beginning, the masters understood this fundamental truth. They created separate worlds, one for themselves, another for monsters. The system would not end when the mutagenic reached adulthood. The children would grow up to become free folk living in an invisible cage, with no rights or opportunities. Which meant no real freedom at all.

The basic premise is that a sexually-transmitted disease caused a generation of children to be born with pretty significant mutations. Abortion, safe sex education, discussions on rape, medical testing have become a necessity. The plague children have mostly been taken away at birth and shut into Homes, institutions where the employees are mostly ex-cons and other sorts of desperate people that shouldn’t be let near children. They are used for slave labour on farms. As the children become teenagers, they start developing superpowers and tensions are rising.

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Review: The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow #1)

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The Sparrow is a book that left me with a lot of conflicted feelings. I’m glad I read it and I have enjoyed it immensely, as much as one can enjoy a tragedy. But would I recommend it? I’m honestly not so sure.

I have a huge weakness for stories with a mystery at the centre, where we know the ending, but not the how and the why. It intrigued me right from the start. The story is mostly centered on Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit priest and linguist, the sole survivor of a first contact mission gone horribly wrong. It starts shortly after he’s returned to Earth, physically and psychologically shattered, with some horrible rumours about him circulating. Immediately, there are questions. Why and how did the rest of the crew die? What went wrong? How is it that he survived? The unwrapping of said mystery is careful and unrushed, with two parallel timelines – one in the present, following his slow recovery, the other following the mission to the planet of Rakhat from the beginning to its disastrous end.

“No questions? No argument? No comfort for the afflicted?” he asked with acrid gaiety. “I warned you. I told you that you didn’t want to know. Now it’s in your minds. Now you have to live with knowing. But it was my body. It was my blood,” he said, choking with fury. “And it was my love.”

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Review: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson (The Reborn Empire #1)

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I received an ARC of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

There has been quite a lot of hype surrounding this book in the blogger circles I run in. I simply had to try it. And yes, it lives up.

“But what is choice?” he said, checking over every blister and sore. “What is power? In truth you have none. None of us do. We are but leaves buffeted upon life’s stream, our every decision already made before it comes to us.”

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Review: Faithless by Graham Austin-King

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I wasn’t much of a fan of Fae: The Wild Hunt, the author’s other book I read, but I decided to give Faithless a try for this year’s Bingo challenge, after a sale, quite a few friends’ recommendations, and a nudge from the Random Number God. Absolutely no regrets.

The decision came easily. Perhaps every betrayal does. In the end, they all begin with a lie. The small ones we tell ourselves to make what we do bearable.

It’s not your fault.
There is no real alternative.
Anyone would do the same thing in your place.

I often complain about a lack of protagonists who have more ordinary professions – a lack of fantasy books about healers, farmers, tailors, cooks, and, yes, why not miners? Well, first two thirds or so of Faithless has this in spades. We follow Wynn, a farmer’s son sold to the temple by his father and forced to work as a miner, and Kharios, a novice priest who seemingly gets a second chance to prove himself. A lot of it is mundane, learning about how things in Aspiration work, mining, forging, interacting with the miner crew or other priests. And I loved it.

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